Smart Money

15 Ways to Slash Your Cell Phone Bill

One of the all time best ways to save money is to save money on your cell phone bill. With a family of four, our cell phone plan now costs us close to $200 a month, including data and texting packages. The cost has gotten out of hand, so I’ve been in search of ways to lower our cell phone bill. Here are some of the tips and tricks I’ve found.

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Save Money on Cell Phones and Plans

1. Stay Under Your Minutes: Nothing drives me crazier than to see a big fat charge on my cell phone bill because we went over our minutes. If this is a habitual problem, you’ll want to either change cell phone plans or cut your talk time. One great tool to help monitor your usage is OverMyMinutes, a free tool that sends you a text message or e-mail when you are about to run over your limit.

2. Use Prepaid Cell Service: Prepaid cell phones are becoming more and more popular as prices come down. As the name suggests, you pay for a certain amount of minutes with no contract to sign. Most of the major cell phone carriers now offer prepaid cell phone options. You can also find great deals on prepaid phones from Republic Wireless.

3. Reconsider Insurance: Shelling out several hundred dollars for a new phone if you break your current one is no fun, but do you really need to insure a $200 to $500 item? Insurance should be for those things we can’t afford to replace (e.g., home, auto, health, and life).

4. Employee Discounts: My company recently began offering a discount on AT&T Wireless service. Since that's what I use for my iPhone and the cell phones my wife and children use, it saved us some money. Check with your employer to see what discounts they offer.

5. Play the Switcharoo: If you have a cell phone break before your contract expires, you could end up paying the full price of a replacement phone. If you have multiple cell phones with the same carrier, however, there may be a better option. If one of your cell phones has been under contract long enough to qualify for a discounted cell phone, replace the phone for that line. You’ll need to extend your contract, but you’ll get the phone at a discount. You can then use the SIM card for your broken phone in the new phone. Been there, done that.

6. Reduce your Data Plan: The days of unlimited data are all but gone. Now the key is to have a data plan that covers your needs, but no more. We were paying too much for a data plan we didn't need. We cut back to a lower plan and saved $20 a month.

7. Re-negotiate: When an existing contract expires, always renegotiate for a better deal. The prices of cell phone contracts tend to go down over time for the same service. So make sure you take advantage of current deals when your contract is up.

8. Ringtones? Really?: I suppose if the Ringtone is important to you, by all means, spend the dough to get what you want. But I’d save the money and put it to better use.

9. Unlimited PlansThink Twice: While an unlimited plan (whether for phone or texting) relieves you of the burden of worrying about your minutes, many people don’t take full advantage of these costly programs. Examine your cell phone usage to see if you can get by with a less expensive plan.

10. Shop Online: Almost all cell phone carriers offer discounts when you shop for cell phones and plans online. We’ve put together a list of discounts and promo codes for some of the major carriers and providers:

11. Never Cancel a Cell Phone Contract Again: When you cancel a cell phone contract, you can get hit with some outrageous fees. Fortunately, there are a couple of websites that can save you a bundle if you need out of a contract. Basically, these sites help bring together folks who want out of a contract with those looking for a cell phone contract. If you need to get out of a cell phone contract or are looking for a good deal and want to help out somebody in a bind, check out CellSwapper or CellTradeUSA.

12. Texting--A Parent's Nightmare: When I was a kid, there was no way to talk with friends while at home but to use the one telephone we had in the house. If I was on the phone, my parents knew (usually because they were yelling at me to get off the phone). Today, kids have cell phones with texting, not to mention e-mail and Facebook. Anyway, the key is to either control texting (good luck) or go with an unlimited plan. The unlimited plan will obviously cost more, but it may be a much better deal than having your child (or spouse) blow by the texting limit.

13. Combine Plans: As you add new lines to the same plan, the price goes down. For a while, we had two different cell phone plans, and we saved a bundle by combining them.

14. Avoid Calling 411: Directory assistance can be really expensive with cell phones, and it's unnecessary. Instead, try 800-FREE-411, 800-411-METRO or 800-GOOG-411, all of which give you listings for free.

15. Use Firefox Plug-Ins To Track Time: Each of the major cell phone carriers have Firefox plugins to help you track your minutes. It’s an easy way to keep from going over your limit.

If you know of other ways to cut your cellular bill, leave a comment and let us know.

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